Shah Rukh Khan to King Khan – the journey was not easy. The man who made it all by himself, without a Godfather in Bollywood. And one thing that always brought out the best in him was his fear of failure. He doesn’t mind laughing at himself. And whenever he thinks success is getting into his head, all he does is make a trip to the U.S. where he is stripped down in the security checks to make him realize that he is just another human being.
When he visited Yale University in 2012, he delivered a motivational speech to the students. Here is a curtailed version of the speech where he emphasized the importance of failure in life.
The Video Transcript
Whatever happened to me happened because I have been always terrified of failure. I don’t want as much to succeed as much as I don’t want to fail.
I come from a very normal, lower-middle-class family. I saw a lot of failures. My father was a beautiful man and the most successful failure in the world. My mother also failed to stay long enough with me to see me become a big movie star. At an early age, after my parents died, I equated poverty with failure. I just didn’t want to be poor. So when I got a chance to act in films it wasn’t out of any creative desire that I did so. It was purely out of the fear of failure and poverty. Most of the films I signed were discards of better-known actors and the producers could not find anyone else to do them. I did them all to make sure that I was working to avoid unemployment. The timing or something was right, and that made them happen. The timing or something was right, and that made them happen. I became a big star.
You have to know and learn that life is not just a checklist of acquisitions, attainments, and fulfillment. Instead, life is difficult and complicated, and beyond anyone’s control. The humility to know it will help you survive its vicissitudes.
Success is a wonderful thing, but it tends not to be the sort of experience that we learn from. We enjoy it, perhaps we even deserve it. But we don’t acquire wisdom from it.
So I believe the true path to success is through the fear of failure. If you aren’t scared enough of failing, you are unlikely to succeed. It’s not pleasant to fail, it’s tough. All of us experience it. You will too if you haven’t already. So use it to succeed.
It is your response to failure that actually helps to buffer the reverses that you experience. Repeated failure has taught me to stop pretending I am someone else. It has given me the clarity to stick to the things that really matter to me instead of distracting me from my core.
Don’t be afraid of being afraid, be afraid of not facing your fears and failures. Do not be afraid to defy conventions. Do not be afraid to destroy systems that kill art and your souls. Do not be afraid to be hungry. Do not be afraid to walk alone if necessary. Because on a tightrope we all walk alone.